SHORTCHANGED BY HISTORY: America's Neglected Innovators by Vernon Pizer

SHORTCHANGED BY HISTORY: America's Neglected Innovators

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In the first of eight more or less mechanical sketches, Pizer credits Welshman Joseph Jenks as the ""father of American industry"" for building (in 1643) and operating the continent's first ironworks. Among other American innovators whose names have ""fallen through the cracks of history,"" con-man Abel Buell, a silversmith, used his engraving skill to counterfeit currency, then restlessly took up one venture after another (and almost as many wives) before dying in an alms house in 1820. More upstanding are shy Obed Hussey, who patented a mechanical reaper two years before McCormick, but was out-hustled by his now-famous rival; ""fertile"" Oliver Evans who mechanized flour mills and wool-combing card production and built America's first self-propelled wheeled vehicle; and James Eads, who provided the Mississippi with diving bells, Civil War gun boats, jetties, and the St. Louis bridge named for him. Gentleman-turned-ice-merchant Frederic Tudor, though, was more entrepreneur than inventor; and the two doctors Pizer ends with--public health pioneer Sara Josephine Baker and blood researcher Charles Drew--seem tacked on more for female and black representation than for any kinship with the others. Pizer's utilitarian profiles might bring some new names to the school-report lists, but they are unlikely to arouse much technical or personal interest in their forgotten subjects.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1979
Publisher: Putnam